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‘Twas The Week before Christmas

Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse.
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
In hopes that St Nicholas soon would be there.
The children were nestled all snug in their beds,
While visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads.
And mamma in her ‘kerchief, and I in my cap,
Had just settled our brains for a long winter’s nap.

by Clement Clarke Moore (1779-1863)




Monday 15th December 2014  FA Youth Cup k.o.:- 7.00pm

3rd Round

Liverpool                                                 2

Sergi Canos 2,

Jerome Sinclair 5,

Bradford City                                          0

Referee:-                                       Attendance:- 236


Well, if Christmas really was like that poem, it passed me by!

Graeme and I left Leicester around 3.00pm which was ridiculously early, but knowing the traffic on the M6, we could still have been late!. As it turned out, after a trouble free journey, we found Langtree Park, home of St Helens RLFC with a fair degree of ease and repaired back to a Chinese hostelry spotted by the eagle eye of Graeme himself and less than a mile from the ground! There we gorged ourselves on Chinese food – all you can eat for a tenner. Sadly, for Graeme, there were no menus to add to his burgeoning collection.


Back at the ground, we managed to get team-sheets from reception (not realising that the stewards handed out an inferior, black and white variety inside the ground). We could pick a seat anywhere in the stadium. Langtree Park is but two years old. The first match was played there in January 2012 (a win against Salford). There are terraces at each end of the ground which can hold approximately 4,000 spectators each. Along each side of the ground are seated stands, one slightly bigger than the other, but offering a total of 10,000 seats. The biggest crowd to date was 17,980 for a fixture against Wigan Warriors. Last season’s average gate was 14,212. Tonight’s attendance of 236 was puny in comparison.


 Graeme….. “In vacant or in pensive mood ……… which is the bliss of solitude!”

Entry was £5, which Graeme thought was a bit steep, but it was only £2 for an old man-gonna-die-soon. However, when I went to get a cup of tea at half-time, I found that it, too, cost a whopping £2 and I was less than amused!


As for the game, we could have left after five minutes. All the action was packed into that short space of time when Liverpool played some beautiful, slick, neat passing football and threatened to overwhelm their visitors who looked distinctly pedestrian.

Then, as if turning off a tap, the game dried up into a stalemate with Liverpool content to pass the ball around, frequently in their own half, and Bradford growing in confidence. The end, when it came, was a merciful release!

Graeme drove us back down to The Midlands without incident and I was home by 11.30pm. Liverpool can look forward to a home tie in the fourth round of The FA Youth cup, with Derby County the visitors.


Tuesday 16th December 2014 West Midlands (Regional) League k.o.:- 7.45pm

Premier Division

Wednesfield                                                0

Ellesmere Rangers                                      6

Jay Stoker 9,

Jack Griffiths 14, 27,

Matt Jones 42, 88,

Marco Adaggio 78,

Referee:- Simon Brown                     Attendance:- 34


There was no rain before this match, but as soon as it started, the rains came with monsoon ferocity. Had they come an hour earlier, I doubt that this match would have gone ahead!

I had journeyed from the depths of Northamptonshire with every effort thwarted by reports from sat-nav of six mile queues at A14/M6 junction, then, when I went through Market Harborough to Lutterworth intending to join the M6 at junction 1, more hefty queues were reported there and so I drove instead up the M1 as far as the M69 and drove all the way along it to join the M6 ………… eventually, at junction 2.


Graeme had warned me that Wednesfield was not the most attractive or prepossessing of venues and so it proved as I arrived there with a scant half hour to go to kick-off. The rain was not far off, but the ground was already heavy underfoot and I parked the car on a patch of soggy turf!

It was probably a good thing that it was dark. The Cottage Ground at Amos Lane has a worn and tired look about it. The only cover is a seated stand along one side, but one needs to pick one’s spot carefully because the roof leaks copiously in several places. Part of the brick wall at the front of the stand has been vandalised and the guttering above is virtually non-existent!

There was a tea hut set on its own adjacent to the players changing rooms and behind the goal, there was a clubhouse with a bar. One hundred and one days into my alcohol fast ……… I wasn’t tempted! The away team officials were gathered over their team sheets and they let me copy the details down. They found it difficult to understand that I would travel eighty miles for a game like this! Had I been to Ellesmere Rangers? Of course I had, and on that particular occasion, Graeme and I had enjoyed the spectacular scoreline of 6-6. It was only last season and they all remembered, of course!


The game itself was played out in torrential rain. At first, it seemed no more than thick mist, but as the match wore on, it became a real curtain of water. The centre circle turned to a muddy lake and I was reliably informed by one of the locals, that the worst part of the pitch was on the far side, in an area just outside the penalty area of the goal furthest from the club house!

Ellesmere are enjoying a pretty successful season. They currently lie in sixth position, although not really in contention for the top two places. Wednesbury, on the other hand are struggling at the foot of the table a scant three points above the bottom. This evening, they were heartily thrashed. The visitors took a three goal lead comfortably within the first half hour, scored another before half-time and a couple in the last ten minutes when they had used up all their substitutes and were idling along in second gear! Poor old Wednesfield! They have recently been decimated by a mass player exodus and it was mainly a youth team and a few old heads who braved the might of Rangers!

The car was barely fifty yards away at the finish, but I got a severe soaking on my mad dash for its shelter and the long drive back!



Wednesday 17th December 2014  Essex Senior League   k.o.:- 7.45pm

Eton Manor                                           4

Chris Theodore 4,

Nicky Barrett 43,

Jamie Hursit 54,

Dean Florence 75,

Greenhouse London                          0

Referee:- James Masson                      Attendance:- 18


I’d never actually been to see Eton Manor, but I knew that they were a nomadic club and that this season, they were sharing with Waltham Abbey. I was surprised to find the match on The Essex Senior League website with a completely different postcode. Have they suddenly got their own ground. It appeared to be at or near Cheshunt, but it was not their postcode, so I decided to drive down to this ground and see for myself! What a let down it was when I saw that they were borrowing Broxbourne’s stadium for the match!

I should have known and I could have kicked myself, but it was good to meet up with Peter Miles, whom I last saw in Ireland back in July when we were both driving hire cars from Dublin to Derry for a Europa League qualifying round match. He was a fountain of knowledge, not only on Eton Manor, but also on Broxbourne. Eton Manor even have connections with his Southend home, because a branch of the team re-located there some twenty years ago!


It wasn’t quite as nasty as last night, but the rain fell consistently until around half-time. We weren’t the only hoppers there and I got the teams from one of them who had been copiously annotating players’ names outside in the rain before the match!


Just as the match was starting, Peter noticed that the visitors had made a change. Apparently, their goalkeeper hadn’t shown up and one of the substitutes was prevailed upon to go in goal, even though he was an outfield player – and, also quite short in stature!


These two clubs are second and third from bottom of the league, with Eton Manor just three points behind Greenhouse but with six games in hand and a superior goal difference! I had seen Greenhouse earlier in the season at Haringey Borough where they play their home games. On that evening, a mere seventeen spectators turned out and five or six of those were hoppers! This evening, that total was exceeded by exactly one spectator and, again, there were five or six hoppers there!

Eton Manor comprehensively outplayed their visitors, but the first three goals might have been saved by a more experienced custodian. In the second half, the stand-in goalkeeper suddenly proved his worth! He made several remarkable saves to make up for his first half lapses and was a considerable reason for Greenhouse keeping the score down to manageable proportions!

On a final note, the entry for an Essex Senior League match was £6.00 with the programme a further £1.50 which seemed a tad expensive for poor old pensioners like me!



Saturday 20th December 2014  Evo-Stik Southern League   k.o.:- 3.00pm

Division 1 South & Central

Egham Town                                                4

Joshua Andrew 44,

Daniel Read 50,

Luke Muldowney 51,

Reis Stanislaus 85,

Beaconsfield SYCOB                                  3

Alex Murray 19, 80,

Ashley Kelynack 61,

Referee:- Mark Mellor                          Attendance:- 91



It was a pretty good day, weatherise for our trip down to London. I met up with Graeme at Blisworth and we drove to Egham town centre in a little over an hour and a half (mainly due to heavy, slow moving traffic on The M25). Having found the ground, well hidden behind what looked like a fairly recently installed housing estate and without signposting, which would have been of considerable benefit in locating the stadium, we repaired back to the town centre. To Graeme’s great disgust, having walked the length of the main street, we were unable to locate a fish ‘n’ chip shop. Sadly, we were forced to accept the hospitality of The Red Lion Inn where I washed a portion of cottage pie down with a pint of Ascot Ales Alley Cat, whereas Graeme washed his fish nuggets and chips down with a pint of lager shandy.


Back at The Runnymede Stadium we found that they were issuing printed team sheets in the club house which was situated outside the ground. Inside the ground, there was plenty of overhead cover, with covered terracing on three sides and a small stand for perhaps 100 spectators on the fourth side. The teams emerged from the rear at each side of this stand which made the silly ritual of shaking hands prior to the match a fairly straightforward manoeuvre. The ground was neat and tidy, but it had a tired and careworn appearance and would have benefitted from a lick of paint to spruce it up!  “We don’t do badges!” said the man on the gate, “there’s no call for them!”  Graeme was a touch miffed at this attitude. As he said later, perhaps if they had badges on sale, they might attract more hoppers! As it was, the attendance was a very ordinary 91, but I did three head counts during the match and could never get above 50!


Egham Town are enjoying their second season at this level, having been promoted from Thee Combined Counties League at the end of the 2012/13 season. They are presently becalmed in mid-table mediocrity, whilst their rivals sit perilously close to the drop zone. The form of neither team was good with only one victory (to Beaconsfield) in the last four games that each had played.


The first half meandered along in a fairly genteel fashion. A couple of goals were scored with Egham just managing to equalise almost on the stroke of half-time. Whatever was slipped into the home side’s half-time cuppa certainly seemed to have an effect. Within six minutes of the restart, they had established a two goal advantage and, for ten minutes, it looked like they would comfortably take the spoils. However, their second half zest wore off somewhat and back came Beaconsfield, who drew level with ten minutes remaining and began to look like the team most likely to grab the victory.


With a scant five minutes to the final whistle, the hosts once more regained the lead and went on to claim a somewhat fortuitous victory.  The journey home was uneventful, so much so that Gaeme was able to catch a swift forty winks!


Red sky at night in the second half at Egham Town 

Matches this season:- 118         New grounds this season:- 77

Total matches:- 3,088               Total grounds:- 1,030

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